Invasive “social” wasps are putting major pressure on New Zealand’s biodiversity and cost the economy an estimated $130 million a year, Radio NZ reminded us today.
That figure comes from a 2015 Department of Conservation study (HERE) which assessed the economic impact of German wasps and common wasps across industries, society and the natural environment in New Zealand.
The report said the biggest economic impacts were on farming, beekeeping, horticulture and forestry workers.
This assessment was based on a literature review. Information was collected from previous studies and from affected sectors in New Zealand to estimate the total costs of wasps, ie the costs that could be avoided and the opportunities that could be gained if wasps were not present in New Zealand.
New Zealand has some of the highest densities of German and common wasps in the world. Wasps have huge social and biological impacts; they are one of the most damaging invertebrate pests in New Zealand, harming our native birds and insects.
The DOC study found the major financial impact was on primary industries and the health sector and included:
- more than $60 million a year in costs to pastoral farming from wasps disrupting bee pollination activities, reducing the amount of clover in pastures and increasing fertiliser costs.
- almost $9 million a year cost to beekeepers from wasps attacking honey bees, robbing their honey and destroying hives.
- wasp-related traffic accidents estimated to cost $1.4 million a year.
- over $1 million each year spent on health costs from wasp stings.
- on top of the direct costs, almost $60 million a year is lost in unrealised honey production from beech forest honeydew which is currently being monopolised by wasps. Honeydew is also a valuable energy source for kaka, tui and bellbirds.
Radio NZ today described the invasive common wasp (aka Vespula Vulgaris), the German wasp, and our three species of paper wasp as being among “our most-hated introduced pests”.
The Royal Society, the Department of Conservation and some local communities are dedicating time, money and energy into putting an end to their predatory behaviour, which affects birds, bats, bees and other insects.
Entomologist and author of The Vulgar Wasp Phil Lester has been talking with Simon Morton about New Zealand’s problem wasps and the latest ways of keeping them under control, which include insecticides and genetic manipulation.
Source: Radio NZ